Updated: Apr 29, 2020
Why did Hillary's 2nd debate shimmy and Michelle's speech shimmy send electrifying chills through me and so many other women? Was it the boldness of the movements? The owning of their bodies? Of their “ness?” Of their wants? What is a shimmy, exactly, I wondered?
What is one doing when she shimmies? Googling, I found the shimmy has its origins in ragtime dancing, a dance move originating in post-abolition times. It is a movement in which the whole body shakes or sways. A physical expression of one’s self-ownership and desire.
Hillary and Michelle’s shimmies resonated with so many women because it touched on the historically imposed silence of women’s wants. Why so many women struggle to identify their wants, their desires. Why women disproportionately feel afraid to negotiate for a higher salary. Why women second-guess themselves when they pursue their wants, especially if they feel like they've "taken" too much of the proverbial pie. Why women experience anorgasmia, the inability to achieve orgasm.
The most important part of rape prevention should be teaching men not to rape. Period. Full stop. But part of teaching men not to rape includes teaching them AND women that women's wants and desires are important and valuable. Teaching women and men that when a woman wants NOT to have sex, her desire should be honored. AND teaching men and women how women can achieve orgasm. Yup, you read that right.
Bessel van der Kolk, a neuroscience and trauma expert, talks about the goal of therapy to be the restoration of joy. The epitome of joy is the experience of orgasm, the transcendence of experience. Both being in fully and escaping the present moment, where time disappears and one if fully in one' s own body. A fully body shimmy.
So often therapists focus on clients’ needs. On helping clients identify what they need. But this focus is limited. Important and necessary but not sufficient. Fulfilling one's needs brings one to homeostasis. Having, pursuing, and fulfilling one's wants takes an individual beyond. Beyond and outside the limitations they’ve either self-imposed or had imposed on them.
How we do talk about true consent when women haven’t been taught how to want? How to identify their wants. To embrace those wants. To pursue those wants. To enjoy the fulfillment of those wants. Can women fully consent to sex if they have been taught their wants are not as important as those of men? Women who fake orgasm, elevating men’s needs above their own. Can women fully consent to food if they have been taught to distrust their hunger cues by a diet industry and thin-obsessed world that promotes restriction? Can women fully consent to food if they have been taught their bodies are not their own, but rather objects to be critiqued, acted upon, and discarded once they lose their luster?
As the writer Lily Myers described, men have been taught to grow out. Women have been taught to grow in. Forget wanting. Women have been taught to forfeit their needs. A woman who is selfless (no needs, no wants) is sainted and a woman who desires is shamed. The Madonna-Whore complex which divides women into two camps of sexual expression and desire, neither satisfies nor provides women with a true identity as a sexual, consenting, and free individual.
Whether a woman wants to wear a string bikini or a full bodied burkini, whether a woman wants to eat a salad or a cheeseburger, whether a woman wants to work in an office or in the home, women are told not to be too greedy. Don't want too much. Don’t want too specific. Don't want what others tell you you shouldn't want. Don't want what you haven't been given.
Just. don’t. want.
When Hillary and Michelle shimmied, women all over the world felt the reverberations in their own bodies. Just like women felt the reverberations of watching the 2015 Women’s World Cup team wanting. Just like women felt watching Meg Ryan demonstrate the power of a woman orgasming.
The joy, the transcendence, the confidence, the boldness of wanting, the ownership of one’s “ness.”
Yes, we need women to orgasm. Shimmy on, ladies. Shimmy on!